The Marvelous Ostrich

Impressive Statistics (lots)

Then there are those outsized abilities — first, they are FAST. Ostriches can sprint at speeds of up to 43 miles per hour. By way of comparison, Usain Bolt, the amazing Jamaican sprinter, set speed records and won Olympic gold medals by running at almost 28 miles per hour for 100 meters. And the ostriches have another advantage — their long, muscular legs allow them to cover from 10–16 feet in a single stride. Take a look at this — no wonder ostriches are called the fastest creatures on two legs!

Instant Growth Spurt

A fairly simple desert life

Popular feathers

In the late 18 thCentury, ostrich feathers became all the rage in Europe for women’s hats (as opposed to earlier times, where these feathers decorated the robes of royalty and the helmets of knights), and the species became seriously endangered in the wilds of Africa. By the mid-19 thCentury, though, business people figured out that the trade of ostrich products was quite lucrative, and it wouldn’t exist if the birds disappeared, so they began to domesticate and farm ostriches, relieving some pressure on wild populations.

There is still some demand for ostrich feathers, mostly for dusters, ostrich meat, and ostrich eggs — but at least today these demands are being met without killing ostrich in the wild. But it’s undeniable that the ostriches’ natural habitats are being threatened by human settlements, roads, and agriculture, and populations are decreasing.

At the Reid Park Zoo

But now it’s time to dispel that silly “burying their heads in the sand” myth. Ostriches certainly do NOT do this, though they will flatten themselves and stretch out their necks and heads flat on the ground in order to become less visible if a distant predator is on the prowl for them! Luckily for the ostrich, the coloration on their necks and heads is very similar to the color of the soils in which they forage.

But back to Eiffel (the black and white one) and Ethel, our marvelous Reid Park Zoo ostriches. They seem unconcerned about their zebra habitat mates, and also particularly interested in the humans who come to admire both species. Eiffel weighs about 290 pounds, and Ethel is a dainty 220, and both are fairly youthful , 21 and 8 years old, respectively. Eiffel has been doing a lot of “dancing” lately, while Ethel, who seems unimpressed, likes to stand under the misters to cool off, or if it’s a little cooler, mesmerize us humans with a dramatic dust bath. One or both of them will probably come to look you straight in the eye, from a safe distance of course, when you come to visit.

But don’t forget about the Reid Park Zoo expansion Though you really don’t want to have a close encounter with either Eiffel or Ethel, in the expansion’s Wings of Wonder aviary, you’ll actually have the chance to feed some of their amazing but much smaller relatives!

Originally published at on June 27, 2021.

Advocating for the Reid Park Zoo expansion. Not affiliated with Reid Park Zoo, The Reid Park Zoological Society, or The City of Tucson Parks and Recreation.

Advocating for the Reid Park Zoo expansion. Not affiliated with Reid Park Zoo, The Reid Park Zoological Society, or The City of Tucson Parks and Recreation.